Fan Paintings

CASE 1:  Women and Arts in the 13th Century

The fan was popularized in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) when the simple bamboo fan and the cattail-leaf fan were invented. These fans were most popular among the common people during the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD). Around the same period, a silk fan in the shape of the moon, called a “round fan,” became the favorite of young ladies, especially those in the imperial place. Later, this moon-shaped fan took on many other shapes, such as an oval flat round or a Chinese plum flower or sunflower. Usually, ribs of the fan were made of animal bones, wood, or bamboo, whereas the handle was engraved with beautiful designs and decorated with jade pendants.

Beautiful scenes of mountains and waters or flowers were also embroidered on the face of a moon-shaped fan. Deeply loved by young ladies, the round fan was popular in China for nearly 1000 years. The popularity of the moon-shaped fan also enhanced the development of painting itself. Since the Song Dynasty, fan painting became an independent art form. The typical composition used in fan painting could be seen in many landscape paintings and figure paintings at the time. (Materials derived from Beijing Weekend 19 June 2001.)

Below is an example of a Chinese fan painting.

painting on a fan Artist: AnonymousTitle: Mountain Dwelling with White Clouds

Date: 1368–1644

Period: Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD)

Medium: Fan mounted on hanging scroll, ink and color on silk

Location: University of Michigan Museum of Art

Inscription of Artist:
Chen Guo Long-shuang [later copy]


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